Much can be learned from studying the history of Christian Missions. We can learn about missions leadership, church-planting strategies, errors to avoid, the important of indigenization, and successful mobilization, to name a few topics.
The history of Christian Missions is incredibly vast, filled with countless stories of God’s provision and grace. We are going to spend a few weeks focusing on stories from Scottish individuals who were involved in missions efforts during the Great Century.
The Great Century was described by Kenneth Scott Latourette as a time unlike any previously seen in history, “Never before had Christianity or any other religion had so many individuals giving full time to the propagation of their faith. Never had so many hundreds of thousands contributed voluntarily of their means to assist the spread of Christianity or any other religion.”1
When considering the numerous biographies about missionaries during this period, it is impossible to miss the steady stream of Scottish missionaries that were sent to the nations. What caused Scotland’s robust sending during the Great Century?
We see three main factors that led to this movement: evangelical revival in Scotland, the sacrificial spirit of the Scottish people, and the told and retold stories of Scottish missionaries serving around the world.
From the middle of the 18th century through the middle of the 19th century, winds of revival swept across both the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland. As the truth of the gospel gripped the Scottish people, societies were formed and missionaries sent to the far reaches of the world. The Glasgow and Edinburgh Missionary Societies were founded in 1796, and over sixty non-denominational missionary societies were formed across the country by the time the Church of Scotland took up the cause in 1824.
An evangelical movement awakened within the Church of Scotland. Moderates within the church focused their preaching on theology and rational thought, while evangelicals preached on sin, grace, and salvation2. As revival occurred in the local evangelical church, the flames of those revivals often spread across the globe.
These factors led generations of Scots to leave their shores, at the cost of comfort and safety, and take the gospel where it had not yet been proclaimed. A people with a reputation for frugality were anything but cheap with their finances and even their very lives during the Great Century.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll continue to look at what took place in Scotland and the stories of its missionaries, celebrating the work God did through their lives.
1Kenneth Scott Latourette, The Great Century: North America and Asia, vol.6 of A History of the Expansion of Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1970), 443.
2J.H.S. Burleigh, A Church History of Scotland, (London, UK: Oxford University Press, 1960), 328.